When speaking English, you probably want to talk about more than just individual things. For example, it’s easy to talk about a particular person, animal, idea, or object — but what happens when you want to talk about groups of things? This is where the collective noun comes into play. So, what is a collective noun? In today’s guide, we will provide a collective noun definition, demonstrate how it is used in sentences, and offer more than 100 examples of collective nouns. Let’s get started!
Collective Noun Definition
A collective noun is a part of speech that refers to a group of things. In fact, the word “group” is an example of a collective noun, though it is not specific to one type of thing. For example, you can talk about a “group of people” or a “group of cars.” Alternatively, most collective nouns refer to very specific things. For this reason, there are many collective nouns that English students will have to learn to expand their vocabulary!
Collective Noun Examples
Since collective nouns can refer to so many different types of things, we will break this list down into groups (no pun intended). Many collective nouns refer to groups of animals, so this will be one of the most important categories to put to memory. In any case, here are more than 100 examples of collective nouns!
Different kinds of animals have some of the most unique and even bizarre collective nouns. Have you ever wanted to know the collective noun for monkeys? Perhaps you’re eager to learn the collective noun for mice? Or even the collective noun for pigs? Well, now’s your chance! Here are some of the most interesting collective nouns of animals:
- Alligators — a congregation
- Anteaters — a candle
- Antelope — a herd
- Ants — a swarm
- Apes — a shrewdness
- Badgers — a cete
- Bats — a colony, cloud or camp
- Bears — a sloth or sleuth
- Beavers — a colony
- Bees — a swarm
- Buffalo — a herd, gang, or obstinacy
- Camels — a caravan
- Cats — a clowder or glaring (adults), a litter or kindle (kittens), or a destruction (wild cats)
- Cheetahs — a coalition
- Chickens — a flock, brood, clutch, or peep
- Cobras — a quiver
- Cows — a herd
- Crabs — a cast
- Crocodiles — a bask
- Crows — a murder
- Deer — a mob
- Dogs — a pack (adults) or litter (puppies)
- Dolphins — a herd, pod, or school
- Donkeys — a drove
- Doves — a dole
- Ducks — a paddling or raft
- Eagles — a convocation
- Elephants — a parade
- Elk — a gang or a herd
- Falcons — a cast
- Ferrets — a business
- Fish — a school
- Flamingos — a stand
- Foxes — a skulk or leash
- Frogs — an army
- Geese — a gaggle
- Giraffes — a tower
- Goats — a flock or trip
- Gorillas — a band
- Guinea Pigs — a herd or muddle
- Hippopotami — a bloat
- Horses — A team, rag (colts), or string (ponies)
- Hyenas — a cackle
- Iguanas — A mess
- Insects — a cloud or swarm
- Jaguars — a shadow
- Jackals — a pack or skulk
- Jellyfish — a smack
- Kangaroos — a troop or mob
- Lemmings — a slice
- Lemurs — a conspiracy
- Leopards — a leap
- Lions — a pride
- Lizards — a lounge
- Lobsters — a pod
- Mice — a mischief
- Moles — a labor
- Monkeys — a barrel or troop
- Mules — a pack
- Otters — a family
- Oxen — a team or yoke
- Owls — a parliament
- Parrots — a pandemonium
- Peacocks — a muster or ostentation
- Pigeons — a kit
- Pigs — a drift or drove (younger pigs), or a sounder or team (older pigs)
- Porcupines — a prickle
- Rabbits — a herd
- Rats — a colony
- Ravens — an unkindness
- Rhinoceroses — a crash
- Seals — a plump
- Shark — a shiver
- Sheep — a flock or fold
- Skunk — a stench
- Snakes — a nest
- Sparrows — a host
- Squirrels — a dray or scurry
- Stingrays — a fever
- Swans — a bevy or game
- Tigers — an ambush or streak
- Toads — a knot
- Trout — a hover
- Turkeys — a gang or rafter
- Turtles — a bale or nest
- Weasels — a colony, gang, or pack
- Whales — a pod, school, or gam
- Wolves — a pack
- Woodpeckers — a descension
- Zebras — a zeal
Understanding the Collective Nouns of Animals
Wow, that’s a lot to remember! Fortunately, you don’t have to memorize all of these collective nouns. Most native English speakers do not know half of them. People who do know all of these names probably study animals for a living! In any case, if you can’t remember the collective noun for a particular animal, it is generally acceptable to replace it with the word “group.”
It’s also important to note that there is a lot of crossover between similar species when it comes to collective nouns. For example, groups of dogs, jackals, or wolves can all be known as “packs.” This shows you that most canine-like animal groups are referred to in the same way. Similarly, many groups of large, four-legged animals like buffalo, antelope, cows, and elk can all be called “herds,” while groups of ocean-dwelling creatures like fish, dolphins, and whales can be called “schools.” As you can see, it’s easier to remember many of the correct collective nouns for animals by thinking about the features or characteristics of the species!
Finally, it’s important to note that some animals don’t have collective nouns. This is usually due to the fact that certain species are solitary creatures. In other words, they don’t like to hang out in groups! One of the most common examples is the koala. Koalas tend to spend time by themselves. As a result, there is no official name for more than one koala in a group. Thus, you just have to refer to them as a “group of koalas.”
People can be divided into many different groups based on behaviors and characteristics. So, here are a few common collective nouns for different types of people:
- Audience — a group of people who are watching a show or attending an event in the same place
- Band — a group of musicians
- Board — a group of officials who make decisions on behalf of a business or organization
- Body — a large group of people
- Bunch — many people, usually gathered closely in one area
- Choir — a large group of singers
- Company — a group of people who make up a commercial organization (business)
- Community — a group of people who live and work in the same area
- Congregation — a group of people who attend a meeting or event, usually on a regular basis; typically associated with religious gatherings
- Class — a group of people who share a social or economic position
- Crew — a group of people who are trained to work together; often associated with sailing
- Crowd — a large group of people in one area
- Ensemble — A group of artists, musicians, or technicians in a given field
- Gang — a small group of friends or associates; commonly associated with criminal activity
- Mob — an unorganized group of people creating chaos or destruction
- Orchestra — a group of musicians who play a combination of wind, string, and percussion instruments
- Panel — a small group of experts or judges
- Posse — A group of people, typically armed with weapons, with a common goal or purpose
- Society — the collective term for all people living together
- Squad — a small group of people trained to achieve a specific goal
- Staff — the employees of a business
- Team — a group of people with a common purpose; often associated with sports or competitions
- Tribe — a group of people who affiliate with each other
- Troupe — a group of artists, usually theater actors
Finally, we’ll look at some common collective nouns for various things:
- Aircraft — a flight or wing
- Apples — a bushel
- Arrows — a quiver
- Bananas — a bunch
- Cars — a fleet
- Cards — a deck (52 cards), pack, or hand
- Computers — a cluster or network
- Diamonds — a cluster
- Flowers — a bunch or bouquet
- Grapes — a bunch
- Mountains — a range
- Objects — a group or collection
- Stairs — a flight
- Stars — a constellation
- Trash — a heap or pile
Collective Noun Exercises
Now that you know some of the most common collective nouns, let’s put that knowledge to use! Below you’ll find some sentences on a range of topics. Your job is to find the collective nouns!
- Which sentence contains a collective noun?
- A. I saw a man staring at the televisions in the store window.
- B. I swear that a gaggle of geese just flew by my window!
- C. Could you show me where I can find all of the mice?
- Which one of the following sentences contains a collective noun?
- A. She wanted to visit all of the museums.
- B. I think badgers are really cute!
- C. They were not looking forward to cleaning up the trash pile.
- Which sentence has more than one collective noun?
- A. The band continued to play even as the choir stopped singing.
- B. We never expected to see a pack of wolves near our house.
- C. Would you prefer a bunch of grapes or a piece of watermelon?
As you might have noticed, many collective nouns use “of” to signify the type of thing that they are referring to. For example, you might hear about “a congregation of people” or “a network of computers.” However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, collective nouns can work on their own or be turned into noun phrases. For example, you might hear about “an orchestra” or “a diamond cluster.” In short, collective nouns are very versatile!
Collective Noun-Verb Agreement
Finally, you’ll need to know how to conjugate verbs when using collective nouns. Generally, collective nouns are treated as singular. For example:
- A bushel of apples fell off the truck.
- A pride of lions was approaching the vehicle.
- The legislative body will vote on the bill today.
- The trumpet ensemble sounds incredible!
In American English, you almost always treat collective nouns as singular. However, British English takes a different approach. In British English, when a sentence refers to the actions of a group as a whole, then you should treat the collective noun as singular. Alternatively, if it refers to the actions of individual members or parts of a group, then you use the plural form of the verb. For example:
- The choir request a new song for the upcoming concert.
- *Individual members have requested a new song, though it’s unclear if every member of the choir agrees. Therefore, you can treat the choir as plural.
- The pack of wolves run in different directions.
- *The wolves are each running in different directions (acting as many individuals), therefore you can refer to the pack as plural.
- The committee hope to have their new chairman next year.
- *Like the choir, it’s unclear if the entire committee or only some members of the committee are in agreement. In any case, if you treat the committee as plural, you must also use “their” instead of the singular pronoun “its.”
Since the rules vary in American and British English, you are free to choose either style. Just remember to use the correct pronouns when referring back to the subject!
The collective noun is an important part of English. It can help you describe specific groups of animals, people, and things. While it’s easy to use simple collective nouns like “group” to refer to everything, it won’t help you expand your vocabulary. By memorizing some (or even all) of the collective nouns above, you can greatly improve your English speaking and writing!